At some point in your study of psychology, you may be required to write a case study. These are often used in clinical cases or in situations when lab research is not possible or practical. In undergraduate courses, these are often based on a real individual, an imagined individual, or a character from a television show, film, or book.
The specific format for a case study can vary greatly. In some instances, your case study will focus solely on the individual of interest.
Other possible requirements include citing relevant research and background information on a particular topic. Always consult with your instructor for a detailed outline of your assignment.
What Is a Case Study?
A case study is an in-depth study of one person, group, or event. Much of Freud's work and theories were developed through the use of individual case studies. Some great examples of case studies in psychology include Anna O, Phineas Gage, and Genie.
In a case study, nearly every aspect of the subject's life and history is analyzed to seek patterns and causes of behavior. The hope is that learning gained from studying one case can be generalized to many others.
Unfortunately, case studies tend to be highly subjective and it is sometimes difficult to generalize results to a larger population.
One of the greatest advantages of a case study is that it allows researchers to investigate things that are often difficult to impossible to replicate in a lab.
The case study of Genie, for example, allowed researchers to study whether language could be taught even after critical periods for language development had been missed.
In Genie's case, her horrific abuse had denied her the opportunity to learn language at critical points in her development. This is clearly not something that researchers could ethically replicate, but conducting a case study on Genie allowed researchers the chance to study otherwise impossible to reproduce phenomena.
There are a few different types of case studies that psychologists and other researchers might utilize:
- Explanatory case studies are often used to do causal investigations. In other words, researchers are interested in looking at factors that may have actually caused certain things to occur.
- Exploratory case studies are sometimes used as a prelude to further, more in-depth research. This allows researchers to gather more information before developing their research questions and hypotheses.
- Descriptive case studies involve starting with a descriptive theory. The subjects are then observed and the information gathered is compared to the pre-existing theory.
- Intrinsic case studies are a type of case study in which the researcher has a personal interest in the case. Jean Piaget's observations of his own children are good examples of how an intrinsic cast study can contribute to the development of a psychological theory.
- Collective case studies involve studying a group of individuals. Researchers might study a group of people in a certain setting or look at an entire community of people.
- Instrumental case studies occur when the individual or group allows researchers to understand more than what is initially obvious to observers.
There are also different methods that can be used to conduct a case study:
- Prospective case study methods are those in which an individual or group of people is observed in order to determine outcomes. For example, a group of individuals might be watched over an extended period of time to observe the progression of a particular disease.
- Retrospective case study methods are those that involve looking at historical information. For example, researchers might start with an outcome, such as a disease, and then work their way backward to look at information about the individuals life to determine risk factors that may have contributed to the onset of the illness.
Sources of Information Used
There are a number of different sources and methods that researchers can use to gather information about an individual or group. The six major sources that have been identified by researchers are:
- Direct observation: This strategy involves observing the subject, often in a natural setting. While an individual observer is sometimes used, it is more common to utilize a group of observers.
- Interviews: One of the most important methods for gathering information in case studies. An interview can involves structured survey-type questions or more open-ended questions.
- Documents: Letters, newspaper articles, administrative records, etc.
- Archival records: Census records, survey records, name lists, etc.
- Physical artifacts: Tools, objects, instruments and other artifacts often observed during a direct observation of the subject.
- Participant observation: Involves the researcher actually serving as a participant in events and observing the actions and outcomes.
Section 1: A Case History
1. Background Information
The first section of your paper will present your client's background. Include factors such as age, gender, work, health status, family mental health history, family and social relationships, drug and alcohol history, life difficulties, goals, and coping skills and weaknesses.
2. Description of the Presenting Problem
In the next section of your case study, you will describe the problem or symptoms that the client presented with. Describe any physical, emotional, or sensory symptoms reported by the client. Thoughts, feelings, and perceptions related to the symptoms should also be noted. Any screening or diagnostic assessments that are used should also be described in detail and all scores reported.
3. Your Diagnosis
Provide your diagnosis and give the appropriate Diagnostic and Statistical Manual code. Explain how you reached your diagnosis, how the clients symptoms fit the diagnostic criteria for the disorder(s), or any possible difficulties in reaching a diagnosis.
Section 2: The Intervention
The second section of your paper will focus on the intervention used to help the client. Your instructor might require you to choose from a particular theoretical approach or ask you to summarize two or more possible treatment approaches.
Some of the possible treatment approaches you might choose to explore include:
1. Psychoanalytic Approach
Describe how a psychoanalytic therapist would view the client's problem. Provide some background on the psychoanalytic approach and cite relevant references. Explain how psychoanalytic therapy would be used to treat the client, how the client would respond to therapy, and the effectiveness of this treatment approach.
2. Cognitive-Behavioral Approach
Explain how a cognitive-behavioral therapist would approach treatment. Offer background information on cognitive-behavioral therapy and describe the treatment sessions, client response, and outcome of this type of treatment. Make note of any difficulties or successes encountered by your client during treatment.
3. Humanistic Approach
Describe a humanistic approach that could be used to treat your client, such as client-centered therapy. Provide information on the type of treatment you chose, the client's reaction to the treatment, and the end result of this approach. Explain why the treatment was successful or unsuccessful.
- Do not refer to the subject of your case study as "the client." Instead, use his or her name or a pseudonym.
- Remember to use APA format when citing references.
- Read examples of case studies to gain and idea about the style and format.
A Word From Verywell
Case studies can be a useful research tool but they need to be used wisely. In many cases, they are best utilized in situations where conducting an experiment would be difficult or impossible. They can be helpful for looking at unique situations and allow researchers to gather a great deal of information about a specific individual or group of people.
If you have been directed to write a case study for a psychology course, be sure to check with your instructor for any specific guidelines that you are required to follow.
Gagnon, YC. The Case Study as a Research Method: A Practical Handbook. Quebec: PUQ; 2010.
Yin, RK. Case Study Research: Design and Methods. Sage Publications; 2013.
Content of this article
- Outline sample
- Tips on writing
- List of topics
How to Write a Psychology Essay
A psychology essay is an article that tackles a certain aspect of psychology.
Before writing a psychology essay, it is important first to understand the question at hand.
It serves the following purposes:
- To explain a particular concept: a psychology essay tries to explain a certain aspect like for example, what causes fears and phobias;
- To encourage creativity: a psychology essay improves the creativity of students as they are required to think out of their comfort zone and write an article that stands out;
- To give a diagnosis: the student can write a psychology essay to explain why they think that a particular diagnosis is necessary. It explains the reasons behind the diagnosis arrived at.
Outline for a psychology essay
Before writing an essay on psychology, it is important first to understand what the topic is all about. Reread general notes on the area before narrowing down to your area of interest. Doing this makes it easier to settle on a subject. Besides, follow the tips for a psychology essay writing to make your work easier.
Below is a sample of an essay on psychology
Personality and Character
In interpersonal relationships, various factors contribute to the sustenance of a relationship. Different people have different personalities and how they relate to each other is different. Understanding personalities lead to better interpersonal relationships.
Different circumstances shape personality traits and characters and therefore influence how they interact with others.
- Girls who grow up in violent homes have self-esteem issues. Seeing their mom being abused gives them a false understanding that being a woman is worthless.
- A person who grew up without siblings becomes more inclined to being self-centered as they are not accustomed to sharing.
- An introvert is more likely to have fun when staying indoors with friends rather than going out or hanging out in crowded areas.
Various factors shape personality and character and these factors should not be overlooked. The environment that a person grows greatly influences their future life.
The above outline for a psychology essay looks at effects and influences of environment on the character.
Good tips on writing
1. Tips concerning introduction for a psychology essay
- The first step to writing a good psychology essay introduction is to have a rough idea of what you are about to write. Having some previous knowledge on the topic ensures that you become more competent and research widely.
- Secondly, have a global structure- this ensures that you have a coherent sentence and flow of ideas. The psychology essay draft tells you whether your content will be enough and lets you know if you have the know-how on how to go about the topic. This method of psychology essay writing is very helpful.
- How to start a psychology essay is challenging for many writers. It is, therefore, necessary to follow the guidelines as shown by the lecturer or from copies found on the internet and various other sources. Start with a catchy phrase or a story. The purpose is to attract the reader from the very beginning. The rule of the thumb in the introduction is always to be creative. Readers should look forward to reading your essay and not just skimming through it.
- Write your introduction in short flowing sentences. They give your essay a touch of excellence. When writing very long sentences, use commas to allow the reader to breathe.
- Ensure your topic is written well and not too wordy. It should not have more than ten words. The topic sentence should show the reader what your essay discusses. Having a long topic sentence confuses the reader as they cannot pick out the theme to be discussed.
2. Psychology essay tips on thesis writing
- The thesis is the main point of the piece. Choose a topic that is relevant and has a case study to back up your theory.
- The thesis question and statement should not be too broad for you to cover. Narrow down on a particular topic to ensure quality work in research. The thesis statement should be well thought out to elude knowledge and mastery of content.
- Try as much as possible to paraphrase and not to copy and paste thesis from the internet from a pre-written essay on psychology. If researching, rephrase it to avoid plagiarism. Most people are tempted to copy directly from the web.
3. Tips on writing the body (length, paragraphs, and transitions)
- The body carries the weight of the thesis. Have knowledge and understanding of your topic- do not write a subject that you will have no content. Show that you understand all specifics of your research question and can relate them to real life situations.
- Have critical evaluation- your assumptions should have relevant evidence both in theory and application. It requires insightful and independent thinking. When mentioning any theory, ensure that you have a case to defend how to apply the theory. The body should be well written. When writing an essay on psychology, the body, and language is crucial.
- Avoid using too much jargon in your writing. In case you do use some technical terms, explain them. Complexities in essay writing make the reader bored. Explain your themes in well laid out independent paragraphs. Each section should carry a point or two. Ensure that the points do not run over to the next paragraph.
4. Tips on how to conclude a psychology essay
Like all other essays. How you write the psychology essay conclusion is critical.
- Introduce the conclusion in a unique manner.
- Avoid using words like ‘to conclude.’
- Your conclusion for a psychology essay sums up your arguments. Give the consequences of your study concerning your research.
- Do not introduce new concepts.
- Make sure that you cover all the topics in the body so as not to defend them in conclusion.
5. Sources for psychology essay
There are so many materials where the student can gather essay questions:
- Books on psychology are useful in getting the concepts.
- The internet provides various themes and psychology essay guides.
- Brainstorming from a general topic and narrowing down.
- A literature review is also a valuable source for ideas and other psychology essay writing help that you may need.
- Try to interact with teachers for more information and psychology essay writing guides.
6. Finalizing the essay
The final step of writing an article is proofreading. Proofread to correct spelling, punctuations, and other grammatical errors. Ensure you check out for plagiarism. Your work should be original and creative. Use citations and proper referencing of sources. There are different referencing styles like Harvard, Chicago or APA. The writer can also give out the written copy to friends for feedback. Be prepared to get both negative and positive criticism. Finally, ensure that you have a glossary of technical terms well defined for the reader to understand. The psychology essay outlining should be done as required.
7. Tips on topic choice
- Research widely on different disciplines before settling for a topic.
- Pick an area that you have an interest as this is a high motivation for research.
- Refer to other items to find out the outline.
- Be flexible that is, allow yourself to have room for change. After writing the body, your arguments might end up defending a different topic
- Have a list of keywords you intend to use
- Ensure you have the available material for your topic
Below is a list of available topics for a psychology essay prepared by team at our online essay writing service that the student can pick from for your psychology essay writing.
List of topics for psychology essay
- What are the different types of personalities?
- Discuss the relationship between dreams and reality
- Eating disorders
- Depression and stress management
- Attitude and attitude change
- Mental health
- Perception and the knowledge process
- Hypnosis and psychological unconscious